The Reimagining of Them and Us

Lesson 1.2 – Assignment 1:3 In response to #6: Write a summary of three significant points that you find most interesting in the final chapter of If This is Your Land, Where are Your Stories?

If This is Your Land, Where are Your Stories? Finding Common Ground is the title of Chamberlin’s book. This title sets the stage, because the text centres on the power and impact of stories. Stories connect us with our past, with each other, and with universal truths. Story telling is an important skill, because it is how we make connections.  This article from Psychology Today  is about the power of storytelling.  Chamberlin uses stories, both his own and others, to make his point throughout the text – there exists a Them and Us mentality that includes a separateness with clearly established borders. Additionally, he addresses the need for each side to find common ground with the other.

The final chapter of this book goes full circle, and reinforces the point he makes in the first chapter when he writes the “dream of a common culture, celebrating common meanings and values, with ceremonies that confirm a common purpose” is not possible without contraction, because “the real power of ceremony is not in achieving peace… but in embracing contraction” (25). The last chapter supports this message through Chamberlin’s proposal for “ceremonies of belief” that are at their centre, contradictory (239-40). “The notion of contradictory truths” is looking at something from two points of view (221). Things can be both true and not true at the same time, as in “a setting sun” on a flat horizon versus “a round earth” that encircles the sun (221). The way to reconcile these contradictions is through a melding of reality with the imagination. Having the ability to imagine the world though another’s eyes, and see things with a new perception. This too has to do with borders, but it is with breaking down the borders, looking beyond the stories we tell ourselves, and experiencing reality from a new perspective.  In the last chapter, “Ceremonies” (219) he writes that through shared ceremonies a common ground can be found. This is possible when both sides come together, and understand each other’s stories through “ceremonies of belief” (222).

Chamberlin suggests the solution ends with land title, and I felt this was the most important point he makes in the book.  He proposes changing the “underlying title back to aboriginal title” (229). In doing so, he says that things would stay the same, but yet they would not stay the same, because “[o]ur understanding of the land would change. Our understanding of ourselves would change. Our understanding of aboriginal peoples would change” (231). He writes that this change in land title “would finally provide a constitutional ceremony of belief in the humanity of aboriginal peoples in the Americas” (231).  It is a radical, yet interesting proposal that he makes. This solution, if possible to carry out, would address many of the wrongs done to our First Nations communities. It would go a long way in creating common ground for all peoples living in Canada. But before we could begin this process, “we need to find a ceremony that will sanctify the land for everyone who lives on it” (227). We would also need to use imagination, while melding each side’s past, present, and future realities together.

Copeland

Image 16 of 19

Lastly, he concludes that the common ground necessary to bridge the distance between Them and Us is not something concrete, but instead is a “state of mind” (239). It is understanding that there are many different truths, and just because one is different from another, it does not make it wrong. Instead if each side looked at truth as having “to do with ceremony, not evidence”, this would open up understanding, because there are many different truths, and many different realities (147). Pink Floyd released the song Us and Them as a single on February 4, 1974 in protest of the Vietnam War, and the song is searching for meaning in the futility of conflict. It addresses how people treat each other, both collectively and individually. In many ways this song ties into Chamberlin’s suggestion in the final chapter of this book, where he leads the reader to a reimagining of Them and Us.

 

Works cited

Chamberlin, Edward J. If This is Your Land, Where are Your Stories? Finding Common Ground. Toronto: Knopf, 2003. Print

Copeland, Scott. Image 16 of 19. N.D. Print of High Quality Giclee Process. Northwestcoastindianart.net. Web. 20 May 2016.

Pink Floyd. “Us and Them.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 20 Sep 2008. Web. 20 May 2016.

Rutledge, Pamela B. “The Psychological Power of Storytelling”. Psychology Today. 16 Jun 2011. Web. 20 May 2016.

6 thoughts on “The Reimagining of Them and Us

  1. Hi Linda,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I echo with the last chapter being a “full circle”. Chamberlin does force the reader to accept contradictions, or at least the existence of the same. He mentions earlier in the text whether we theorize the earth to be flat or round, no one will fall off from it as a result. Quite a challenge to the western way of thinking.

    I think these stories and our conversations are important because it brings First Nations issues to realities. They are not from the past or some distant land; they exist in how we perceive the world.

    With an afternoon greeting, typed on land traditionally home to the Coast Salish peoples.

    – John

    • Thank you John for your input.

      It is interesting to consider the earth as both round and flat at the same time. Intellectually we know the earth is round, yet when we look across the horizon it appears flat. This concept of round versus flat is a contradiction, at least in how our eyes perceive the world.

      Take care,

      Linda

  2. Hi Linda,

    Thank you for your post! This is a great analysis and exploration of Chamberlin’s book. I agree that some people truly struggle to adapt to change; however, I think that as a country we need to work toward introducing more “common ground” practices in our school and education systems. Because school curriculums are generally established by provincial ministries of education, they can be an excellent place to begin to foster respect, knowledge about the value of many stories, and discussion about Canada’s (not always so peaceful) history. By integrating and solidifying the education of students in our school systems, we can also encourage dialogue at home. For example, a student may learn something that they find interesting or different about a First Nations culture(s), and share that information at home. In turn, this can be an opportunity for parents to think critically as well.

    When I was in Elementary school, we learned a fair bit about various First Nations cultures and livelihoods throughout BC. The only course that I believed truly excluded First Nations peoples – and even glorified some of the actions that were taken – was a Social Studies class in grade 10. I wonder, though, if my experience was unique in that I believe my education provided a fairly adequate introduction into the lives, histories, and stories of First Nations peoples in this area. I would love to hear some feedback from any others who read this post. If you went to school somewhere in British Columbia, were you educated on First Nations peoples and histories? Here is an example of the BC curriculum (from 2006 but I assume this is the most recent version). https://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/abed/shared.pdf

    I am interested to know how much teachers follow these guidelines and encourage students to think about Canada’s many stories – beyond the stories of the settlers.

    Although there may always be people who stereotype and practice/preach ignorance, this can at least be a platform for discussions and breaking apart the dividers between “us” and “them.” While many may believe that Chamberlin is idealistic in his discussions, I believe that being idealistic is both appropriate and necessary. Why should we fear idealism? By imagining a better future – and reimagining the other – I believe that we can all make small changes in our use of language/terminologies, daily practices, connections with others, and connections to our world.

    • Thank you Charlotte for adding to the conversation!

      You ask the question about First Nations study in the BC curriculum. For myself, I do recall doing a project in grade 7 on the Cree Nation. However it was not in any degree close to what is outlined in the Shared Learnings content that you posted above. I took a close look at the content in the pdf, and I think if this was taught in all our public schools from K-10, it would go a long way in creating common ground. The Shared Learnings has been developed for use in all BC schools, but it would be very interesting to find out if and how it has been implemented.

      Linda

  3. Hi Linda,
    Your blog post was very interesting and I totally agree with the points you have made. I have written my response on the same question as yours, and though written it in a different way, agree with everything you have written. Your response put more of the reading in perspective for me, like thinking both collectively and individually. My only question is to Chamberlin himself, what he writes are really great ideas about accepting the aboriginal land title, but I think he thinks that this will be an easy process and people will just become accustomed to it. He writes, “If we tell this new story of underlying aboriginal title often enough, we’ll get used to it, just as we get used to nursery rhymes and national anthems” (231). I think changes are are hard for people to accept, I feel like until people have a certain understanding of the beliefs and stories their will be a lot of controversy. There is much said about Islam today, a lot of debate, people don’t understand it because people even muslims have different meanings of it so people have a hard time accepting it. Myself being a muslim, often I have to explain to people they have an incorrect idea of what something means, and not all of us agree on the interpretation of something. I think a lot of education is required for things like that to change, though I totally agree with the idea I think it’s an ongoing process.
    Thanks,
    Mariam Manghat

    • Thanks Mariam,

      I appreciate your thoughtful comments. I agree with you, that while Chamberlin’s solution is idealistic, it would also be difficult to put into place. However, I think taking baby steps towards his suggestion is an important start. In some places, acknowledging and giving thanks for the use of the traditional, ancestral, and unceded lands of the First Nation’s people whose land is being used, is the first order of business. If this procedure was expanded, and was an accepted way of interacting on the land, it would go a long way in moving towards Chamberlin’s ideal.

      Linda

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